Scientists have cracked the DNA sequence code of wheat – a breakthrough that could improve global food security and help those allergic to the world’s most common crop.
The research effort involved 73 institutes in 20 countries and will allow the faster breeding and production of new wheat varieties, including those that are drought and frost tolerant.
The breakthrough means that farmers will now be armed with better information about quality, yield, diseases and a crop’s resistance to stress such as frost or drought.
And with wheat being one of the world’s major food sources, that could also mean improved outcomes for global food security.
Professor Rudi Appels led the Australian team’s contribution through Agriculture Victoria and said the research had offered ‘a map’ of the highly complex crop.
The genome of an organism has been described as being like having a detailed road map that contains everything you need to know about maintaining that organism.
Professor Appels said it was like having a Google map for wheat.
“Where you think there’s a gene controlling some aspect of yield or disease resistance and using what used to take years, with this Google map for wheat we can now do it overnight,” he said.
“What that’s really done is to really open up the wheat engine for us, to look at what’s there and to help us to refine and develop the crop for adapting to change in the environment.”
Professor Appels said with five times the amount of DNA than that of humans, the wheat genome sequence had taken 13 years to complete, with the findings published today in the journal, Science.
This detailed map means researchers can track the parts of the wheat which relate to coeliac disease and other allergies.